At WiseTour, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Mayan ruins are the leftover archaeological sites of the Mayan civilization which existed between 1300 BCE - 1200 CE. The Mayans are known for being an extremely advanced civilization that flourished primarily between 300 CE -900 CE. The Mayans inhabited lands in the current day Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize, and they were responsible for building large monuments to carry out numerous rituals and ceremonies. The ruins of these ceremonial monuments can be visited at hundreds of locations around areas of Mexico and Central America.
Tulum and Chichen Itza are two of the most frequently visited Mayan ruins. Tulum overlooks the Caribbean Sea approximately 81 miles (131 km.) south of Cancun, Mexico. Tulum is considered to be one of the most important cities of the Mayan civilization because it was believed to be the one of the main port cities during their time. Also located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is revered as the most visited location of all the Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza was the capital and cultural center of the Mayan civilization and the archaeological site spans over 6 square miles (approximately 15.5 sq. km.). The other Mayan ruins on the Yucatan include but are not limited to: Becan, Bonampak, Calakmul, Chacchoben, Chac Mool, Chicanna, Coba, Mayapan, Uxmal, Xel-Ha and Yaxchilan.
Although many Mayan ruins are located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, there are other sites in nearby countries. Guatemala is home to Tikal National Park which covers over 222 square miles (575 sq. km.) of dense rainforest and contains over 4,000 Mayan structures. In addition to Tikal, Guatemala houses Ceibal, Aguateca, Dos Pilas, Tamarindito, Solola, Antigua and many more.
Another one of the most visited Mayan archeological sites is Copan which is located in present day Honduras. Copan is the southernmost point of the Mayan civilization. In addition to being a learning center, Copan is famous for large stone pillars that have intricately carved hieroglyphics that tell stories of the ancient culture of Honduras.
Another important trade city for the Mayans was located near Belize City, Belize at Altun Ha. Altun Ha contains at least 500 buildings but the core of the ruin area consists of thirteen structures and two plazas. Altun Ha is home to one of the most popular Mayan temples, which is called the Temple of Masonry Altars. Besides its rich history and seven layers of tombs, the temple is on the label of Belikin beer, which is Belize’s national beer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most famous Mayan ruins to visit?
The most renowned Mayan ruins include Chichen Itza in Mexico, which is famous for the Kukulkan Pyramid; Tikal in Guatemala, known for its towering temples; and Palenque in Mexico, celebrated for its exquisite architecture and carvings. Each site offers a unique glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization.
How old are the Mayan ruins?
The Mayan civilization flourished between 2600 BC and 1800 AD, with many of the ruins dating from the Classic period (250-900 AD). For instance, the iconic city of Chichen Itza was established around the 7th century AD, according to UNESCO.
Can you climb the Mayan ruins?
Climbing Mayan ruins depends on the site and current regulations. For example, climbing the main pyramid at Chichen Itza is prohibited to preserve the structure and ensure visitor safety. However, some lesser-known sites may still allow climbing, but always check the latest rules before your visit.
What insights do the Mayan ruins provide about their civilization?
The Mayan ruins offer insights into the Mayans' advanced understanding of astronomy, mathematics, and architecture. Structures like El Caracol at Chichen Itza served as an observatory, aligning with Venus's cycles. The ruins also reveal the Mayans' complex social and religious practices through art and inscriptions.
Are there any active archaeological projects at the Mayan ruins?
Yes, there are ongoing archaeological projects at various Mayan sites. For instance, the Pakal the Great's tomb discovery at Palenque and the recent Lidar surveys revealing thousands of hidden structures in the Guatemalan jungle demonstrate the active research efforts to understand the Mayan legacy further.